Category: Last Things, Word: TRIBULATION AND WRATH
April 1, 2016 | by: Kendell Easley, prepared by Dave Maniquis | 0 Comments
Posted in: 52 Words
48. TRIBULATION AND WRATH
For all that time there will be great tribulation, the kind that hasn’t taken place from the beginning of the world until now and never will again! Unless those days were limited, no one would survive. But those days will be limited because of the elect. (Matthew 24:21-22)
DEFINITION: “Tribulation” refers to affliction (hardship or suffering) brought against God’s people, either by life’s circumstances or by evil forces, with “great tribulation” referring to end times troubles. “Wrath” refers to God’s righteous anger against sin and evil.
In the New Testament, the word usually translated “tribulation” (Greek thlipsis) occurs more than 40 times, scattered throughout the Gospels, Acts, Epistles, and Revelation. It refers to the pressure or difficulty God’s people ordinarily expect throughout life’s journey. A sampling of such texts follows, with the Holman CSB translation for thlipsis placed in italics:
- “Then they will hand you over for persecution, and they will kill you” (Matt. 24:9).
- “It is necessary to pass through many troubles on our way into the kingdom” (Acts 14:22).
- “Our momentary light affliction is producing for us…glory” (2 Cor. 4:17).
- “I know your tribulation and poverty, yet you are rich” (Rev. 2:9).
The New Testament writers recognized tribulation as a God-ordained process, expressed classically in Romans 5:3-5. There, thlipsis is the necessary foundation for producing endurance (and other virtues) and should therefore be an occasion of rejoicing, not despair.
What about the “great tribulation,” the horrible end-time troubles? Actually, the phrase occurs in the Bible only four times, and two of these refer to past suffering by historical individuals (Acts 7:11; Rev. 2:22). The others—which seem to be end-time references—are Matthew 24:21, quoted above, and Revelation 7:14. There, believers in Jesus (those who have “washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb”) are seen “coming out of the great tribulation.” In context, these persons did not escape the tribulation. The only divine guarantee of escape from the worldwide “hour of testing” is what Christ promised specifically only to first-century saints in Philadelphia (Rev. 3:10). Yet many biblical scholars affirm, often on theological grounds rather than direct textual teaching, that believers will be removed from the end-time tribulation by the rapture. (See the Article on the rapture.) Paul, for example, wrote, “God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess. 5:9). [Being the object of God’s wrath is different than being in a world environment in which God’s wrath transpires.]
This leads, then, to a consideration of “wrath” (Greek orge), occurring more than 30 times in the New Testament. Consider the following examples.
- “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?” (Matt. 3:7)
- “We will be saved through Him from wrath” (Rom. 5:9).
- “Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath” (1 Thess. 1:10).
- “If anyone worships the beast … he will also drink the wine of God’s wrath (Rev. 14:9-10).
Clearly Jesus promised believers deliverance from God’s wrath (just as the Israelites did not experience the 10 plagues on Egypt). Yet there seem to be no guarantees that Christians will escape tribulation (just as the Israelites endured the hostility of Pharaoh and the Egyptians).
REFLECTION: Do you think that Christians should escape tribulation in general? Why or why not? What about “the great tribulation”? Why do Christians expect to escape from God’s wrath? [When God’s wrath is rightly understood as His anger against sin and evil.]
PRAYER: Lord Jesus, give me the grace to receive tribulation as a blessing, not a curse. Help me to grow from my troubles. Thank You that I will never experience Your wrath. Amen.
Dave Maniquis is a Teaching Elder at Restoration Church. He holds a BA in History from Rutgers University and an MA in Biblical Studies from Reformed Theological Seminary. He enjoyed a 23-year career in the U.S. Government, working and traveling extensively in Western and Eastern Europe. He has been a Christian for most of his adult life and has been involved in church planting, overseas as well as here in Port Orange, teaching the Bible and speaking into others’ lives with the Gospel. He is married to Maureen and they have two wonderful sons, Dylan and Evan.